Leg 3 – Fort McMurray

*written May 1, 2012

Sorry this is a day late, but after a nerve-wracking five-hour drive, and unpacking all my things and getting settled, I found myself suddenly quite exhausted and called it an early night last night.

Finally nice out.

I hadn’t heard about the huge crash on Highway 63 until my mom told me about it while I was in Edmonton.  It was definitely good for me to know about it, so that maybe I’d be a little more careful than usual on the drive, but it definitely raised my stress level and made me quite anxious to just get on the road and get there.  Especially reading all of the user comments on various stories, calling the highway a “death trap” among other things.  Not gonna lie, I probably envisioned over 50 varying incarnations of my own death before going to bed that night.

The drive itself wasn’t as bad as I was prepared for it to be.  As a responsible driver, the worst part about driving on that highway now is fear of the not-so-responsible drivers.  There are so many inclines and declines on that highway that a lot of the time you can’t see the road directly in front of you because you have to make it up the incline first.  Those are the times you hold your breath and just wait for a car going 150 km/h to appear right in front of you, passing someone in the other lane.  That’s exactly what happened last Friday.

Yes, a house.

Then there are the “wide loads”.  Flat-bed trucks carrying anything from huge machinery, to ready-to-move homes.  Yeah, they’re going about 40 km/h, and on the highway it’s enough to drive the most patient motorist batshit crazy.  The worst part is, when you finally decide to pass them, you’re starting from 40 km/h and you spend so much more time in the wrong lane, when a regular pass is done in about four seconds.  Not to mention that all of the wide loads have entourages in front and back of them to notify the world that they’re there.  I call it “School Bus Syndrome”.  Why do school buses need the strobing blinding light on top of them? They are gigantic and yellow, people don’t need a flashing light to notice them.  I digress.

So I got into Fort McMurray pretty early in the afternoon, and found out that it would be about five hours before I’d be able to get into the place I was staying.  So I took the time to walk and drive around and check the place out.  It’s an absolutely beautiful city.  You actually drive way down, off the highway to get into the city, so the entire place is surrounded by these big, wooded hills.

Pretty standard shopping centre, near where I'm staying.

They’ve got pretty much every standard chain you’d find in any other city, whether it’s a restaurant or a grocery store, but I was dismayed to find they do not have an Applebee’s.  Which means I have zero places to take a girl on a first date.  I’m actually embarrassed to have just written that, but Ashley made me.

So I’m staying in a house with three other people, but it actually turned out to be a pretty sweet deal for the city I’m living in, where a standard one-bedroom apartment will run you about $1,800/month.  I have access to everything in the house, and a bedroom and my own bathroom, which is what I’ve found is a rarity when rooming with people here.  All for only a couple hundred dollars more than I was paying in Winnipeg.

So many of the residential areas here are just a massive jumble of houses/condos.  Fort Mac is a “boomtown”, and you can tell with one quick look around that when it suddenly became a boomtown, it was a mad dash to develop residential areas.  Houses are just crammed one next to the other, no driveways, park wherever the hell you can, oh, look over here, a random paved area off the side for parking, and six houses just in the middle of nowhere.  It’s definitely not like anything I’ve ever seen before.  People are there to work, not live. And I don’t mean that in a bad way or anything, I just mean that getting to Fort McMurray is the first priority for most people, and comfort of living is second.

The area where I’m staying is nice though, quiet, and will be great for rollerblading  in when it gets a little warmer out.

But this post is getting a little lengthy, so I’ll stop there, and will try to post again once I have a few days of work under my belt.

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    • Lesley
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Great article – love to see all the photos of where you are. Keep them coming!!!!

  1. This kind of makes me miss living there. Almost.

  2. I too love Applebee’s.

  3. How do I “like” Gaudes’ comment?

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